Friday, 19 January 2018

Detectives II

Isaac Asimov's and Larry Niven's future histories each incorporate a detective series. Poul Anderson's Technic History does not but could have. There are bound to be both private and police detectives in Chicago Integrate and Archopolis. In fact, Nicholas van Rijn applies Poirot-like deductive skills in order to understand new planetary environments and alien species whereas Dominic Flandry is an Intelligence agent, which is detective work on a larger scale.

In the Psychotechnic History, two early stories are about UN Intelligence men.

The Stars Are Also Fire incorporates a murder investigation.

In the Rustum timeline, a private investigator implies that he is descended from Holmes.

In the Maurai History, Intelligence men have to monitor technology.

In After Doomsday, detective work is necessary in order to discover who destroyed Earth.


The next thing on TV is a regular series of GK Chesterton's Father Brown albeit with original scripts. Poul Anderson wrote Catholic priests and a detective series although not both together.

There are specialist detective fiction bookshops just as there are specialist fsf bookshops. Presumably Anderson's Trygve Yamamura novels are on sale in the former. Does anyone know Anderson only as a crime fiction author?

One way to diversify detective novels is to make the detective unusual:

the first consulting detective;
a British aristocrat;
a retired Belgian policeman;
an English spinster;
a Catholic priest;
a Japanese-Norwegian San Franciscan Buddhist ex-policeman;
a Sicilian Police Inspector.

Probably every interesting variation has been imagined by now. I like Yamamura and am closer to his wavelength than to Brown's.

Westminster Abbey And Back To The Future

Reading Poul Anderson in Britain, I am pleased to find Anderson's references to British history.

Watching TV while still recuperating from a cold, we find a Time Team program about Westminster Abbey.

These two lines of thought come together beautifully here:

"...many years ago, on my first visit to London, I was wandering through that charming old junkshop they call Westminster Abbey and abruptly, without warning, came upon the grave of Isaac Newton. The memory of that can still send a tingle up my spine."
-Poul Anderson, "The Discovery of the Past" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 182-206 AT pp. 182-183.

The concluding paragraph of "The Discovery of the Past" lists the ways in which we can mentally visit the past:

contemporary writings;
modern scholarship;
archaeological and historical fiction;
sf time travel.

Then, at the bottom of p. 206:

"We can return pleased, refreshed, better able to understand our own age and even, it may be, the future."
-op. cit., p. 206.

The following page begins with the Title, "Flight to Forever."

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Perrenial Professions?

An immortal living through history needs to move around to conceal his longevity and also needs to earn a living. Some fictional immortals practice different lines of business down the centuries. At least two that I know of identify a kind of work which they think will always be needed and stay with that.

For Poul Anderson's example, see More On Patulcius.

Neil Gaiman's Bernie Capax:

""From time to time he's done other things, but mostly he's been a lawyer of one kind or another.
"People always need lawyers."
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Brief Lives (New York, 1994), Chapter 3, p. 2, panel 1.

So what happens to them? Capax dies when a wall falls on him and Patulcius outlives the need for archivists.

Literature, Life And Change

Literature reflects life; life involves change. Innocence lost is the theme of Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series. Even characters able to travel into the past are unable to retrieve their lost innocence. At the end of a major sub-series in the Technic History, a trade pioneer crew member realizes that she cannot return to her home as she remembers it because she has changed even if it has not:

Chee: "We can't go home to what we left when we were young; it may still be, but we aren't, nor is the rest of the cosmos...We enjoyed the trader game as long as that lasted." (9)
-copied from here.

We need to read the Time Patrol and the Technic History (at least) once when young, then (at least) once more when we have had enough time to experience some life changes. Maybe Anderson's immortals, Hanno and Hugh Valland, achieve a mental equilibrium where they no longer regret loss?

Delirium, one of Neil Gaiman's seven Endless, has the same experience of change as mortals:

"Delirium stands in Dream's Gallery, waiting for his return. Remembering:
"The moment she realized what was happening, that the universe was changing, that she was growing up or at least growing older...
"She was no longer Delight, and the blossoms had already begun to fall in her domain, becoming smudged and formless colors, and she had no one to talk to..."
-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Brief Lives (New York, 1994), p. 20 (see image).

I have quoted the contents of the first three captions, which are illegible in the image. The concluding three captions read:

"Then he said, 'Del, things are changing.'
"She knew it was true.
"And there was nothing she could do about it."

Reality And Virtuality

How do we know that we are not living in a virtual reality like one of the "emulations" in Poul Anderson's Genesis? This is an update of Descartes' question whether a deceitful demon is feeding us illusory experiences.

The most basic answer is that we classify some experiences as illusions only by contrasting them with other, more permanent and repeatable, experiences that we classify as real. Therefore, it is meaningless to ask whether all experiences are illusions.

For the question to be meaningful and to have any practical significance, there would have to be some way for us to differentiate between the virtual reality that we are in and the reality beyond it. Andrea (scroll down) tells me that there is one piece of evidence. At the sub-sub-atomic level, scientists detect a "fuzziness" which, it is thought, would be more characteristic of a virtual reality than of a reality.

The statistical argument is that an indefinite number of virtual realities could be generated from a single physical reality. Therefore, we are more likely to be living in one of the former than in the latter.

This is Philip K.Dick's preoccupation. I prefer the broader range of Poul Anderson's works.

Where The Gods Live

Norse gods survive well in works of fiction. Thus, they remain in human consciousness which is where the gods dwell. Odin is in:

novels by Poul Anderson and SM Stirling;
Marvel comics and films;
The Sandman and American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

He is a prominent character in Anderson's The Broken Sword, Hrolf Kraki's Saga and War Of The Gods.

A future research project could be to compile a list of Odin's characteristics as disclosed in these modern works. Two immediate insights:

Anderson's Odin is devious, in keeping with the Eddas;

in The Sandman, when the ghost-ravens, Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory, are away, Odin, sitting in Gladsheim, can neither think nor remember but, as soon as they return, he instantly knows all that they have seen - is this Gaiman's deduction from the Eddas or is it explicitly stated there?

Many Worlds II

We imagine that alternative histories occur in different four-dimensional space-time continua coexisting parallel to each other along a fifth dimension. This is an sf idea. Of its many practitioners, the ones discussed most often on the Poul Anderson Appreciation blog are HG Wells, Poul Anderson and SM Stirling.

Might a single conceptual framework incorporate not only alternative histories but also all the other kinds of imagined worlds? -

mythological realms, including the Nine Worlds in the Tree;
the many hereafters;
the land ruled by Oberon and Titania;
all the fictional universes;
Earths where natural selection has generated anthropomorphic animals;
the Dreaming, if we regard that as a distinct realm;

Here we move from sf into fantasy although a scientific rationale remains possible:

"...what a magnificent instrumentality the creator system was! Out of nothingness, it could bring worlds into being, evolutions, lives, ecologies, awarenesses, histories, entire timelines...They could be works of imagination - fairy-tale worlds, perhaps, where benevolent gods ruled and magic ran free."
-Poul Anderson, Genesis (New York, 2001), Part Two, V, p. 146.

How do people travel between universes? Valeria Matuchek knows theorems that enable her to arrive in the continuum that she wants or one like it. She deduces that there has to be an interuniversal nexus and thus enters the Old Phoenix which is in a pocket universe. Meanwhile, in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, the Inn of the Worlds' End is maintained in existence by the continual ending of worlds.

Returning to the infinite but bounded Dreaming, Morpheus spirals past way stations on the fringes of nightmare, then charts a course nightward to the Gates of Horn and Ivory. (See here.) Later, traveling from the Dreaming to Hell, he passes through the cold wind of the uncreated wastes.

Maybe there should have been a collaboration between Poul Anderson and Neil Gaiman?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Unwritten Books

One brief post before your blogger returns to the realm of Morpheus -

In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, the Library of Dreams contains every book that was never written. See the image - and there are more.

So here are questions for every reader of this blog:

What unwritten titles can we imagine for Poul Anderson and for other authors discussed here?

What would be an appropriate title for a concluding Time Patrol volume or for a novel about the death of van Rijn, Falkayn or Flandry?

I should not be blogging this late. Good night.

Reasons To Visit Hell, Then Return To Earth

In CS Lewis' The Great Divorce, the author, in a dream, visits Hell and the foothills of Heaven so that he can be taught about moral choices.

In Robert Heinlein's  Magic Inc., magicians visit Hell in order to put a stop to demonic interference in American legal procedures.

In Poul Anderson's Operation Chaos, the Matucheks visit Hell in order to rescue their kidnapped baby daughter.

In Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, the plant elemental visits Hell in order to rescue his friend's soul unjustly imprisoned there.

In Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Morpheus visits Hell twice, first to retrieve one of his tools in the possession of a demon and secondly to rescue a former lover whom he had wrongly imprisoned there.

Orpheus, retold in different ways by Anderson and Gaiman, visits Hades - but that is a different place - to restore his lover to life.

Of all these infernal travelers, Morpheus has the biggest surprise. On his second visit, Lucifer Morningstar, tired of presiding over pointless suffering, has expelled the demons and damned and retired as Lord of Hell!